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In Pursuit of PrivilegeA History of New York City's Upper Class and the Making of a Metropolis$
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Clifton Hood

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780231172165

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231172165.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM COLUMBIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.columbia.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Minnesota Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CUPSO for personal use.date: 24 September 2021

“The Best Mart on the Continent”

“The Best Mart on the Continent”

The 1750s and 1760s

(p.1) 1 “The Best Mart on the Continent”
In Pursuit of Privilege

Clifton Hood

Columbia University Press

Chapter 1 concentrates on the 1750s and early 1760s when New York City was a minor seaport and provincial capital within an Atlantic economy of empires and trading. In a colonial seaport whose life’s blood was commerce, merchants were the people who made the principal economic decision. From around 1700, a few wealthy merchants – known as “great merchants” – accumulated fortunes that supplied a material basis for a luxurious way of life. New York’s merchants conceived of themselves and were seen by others as being part of a larger provincial upper class that also incorporated royal officials, planters, doctors, lawyers, and other professionals. This upper class had taken shape between the 1680s and the 1720s, driven by the expansion of the trans-Atlantic trade. It was characterized by its relative openness and its preoccupation with individual economic advancement. Compared to the stuffy and backward-looking elites found elsewhere in the colonies, the New York upper class was relatively dynamic, adaptable, and aggressive. However, the standing of merchants within this New York upper class was compromised by the code of gentility and by the place of royal officials atop the status hierarchy. The incompatibility of gentility with overly aggressive money-making and the privileged status of royal administrators relegated merchants to a secondary position in that upper class.

Keywords:   William L. Livingston, Atlantic world, Merchants, Seven Years’ War, Commerce, status hierarchy, gentility, commoners

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